We’re back with another episode of Bad Books for Bad People, in which Jack Guignol and I discuss Philip José Farmer’s one-two punch of Image of the Beast and Blown. These XXX science fiction/horror novels are some of the most bonkers books to come out of the already-bonkers 1960s. I described these books as “like the monster mash version of Bataille’s ‘Story of the Eye,'” but there’s an awful lot more going on here. Explicit sex, Lord Byron, aliens, and… Well, you’ll just have to listen to the podcast to find out the rest.
We got our most squeamish friend, man of mystery Baron XIII, to read an especially grotesque segment of Image of the Beast. He issues a seven-day drawing challenge in exchange for being emotionally tortured WARNING: Do not drink every time I say “werepig” or “vagina” or you will be one sloppy human being by the end of this podcast.
It’s alive! The first episode of Bad Books for Bad People, my podcast with my long-time friend and collaborator, Jack Guignol, is available for your listening pleasure. We discuss a truly bonkers book, Alistair Rennie’s BleakWarrior, which was was dubbed by one reviewer as “black metal new weird.” Jack thinks it’s more like a SoulCalibur porno directed by Jodorowsky. Who’s right? What other unlikely comparisons will we come up with? Will guest reader Degtyarov of the ultra-esoteric blog and zine Black Ivory Tower be able to hold it together through a passage from the book that involves a whole lot of grotesque violence? Tune in and find out!
In “bucket list” news, I spoke to two of my favorite intellects of the American underground in February. Feral House founder Adam Parfrey chatted with me about his history in publishing, his instincts about what makes a compelling book, and how the current social climate might be creating the most frightening atmosphere yet for advocates of free speech. Read the interview on Heathen Harvest here.
One of the most important books in the development of my personal aesthetic is Mel Gordon’s Voluptuous Panic, an exploration of sex culture in Weimar Berlin. It’s a book I love so much that I’ve gifted copies to friends and have even had to replace my own much-loved, dog-eared copy. Imagine my delight when Mel agreed to sit down over drinks with me and talk about his incredibly colorful life and scholarship over the course of four dishy hours. Read the interview on Heathen Harvest here.
March’s Great Moment in Historical Sluttery concerns the career of Aphra Behn, Restoration Era author and spy. When widowhood left her facing debtor’s prison, Aphra was able to find employment as a playwright for the two leading theaters in England, becoming one of the first women to financially support herself through her writing. Read about Aphra Behn on Slutist.
Bryan Proteau, aka Cloven Hoov, is another artist I’ve admired from afar for quite some time. His stunning linework and mystical imagery consistently blow me away. Read more about the work of this talented, thoughtful individual here: Alchemical Linework: The Art of Bryan Proteau.
Feral House’s sister imprint, Process Media, continues to delight with their eclectic catalog that includes historical reprints, how-to books, music overviews. There was pretty much a zero percent chance I wasn’t going to be thrilled with their most recent title, Priestess of Morphine: The Lost Writings of Marie-Madeleine in the Time of Nazis, which covers the poetry and prose of the forgotten bisexual star of Wilhelminian and Weimar Germany. It’s like they plumbed my subconscious to come up with that title, for God’s sake! Read my full review on Heathen Harvest.
In other articles relating to notable queer women of history, I wrote about Golden Age Hollywood screen goddess Alla Nazimova for February’s Great Moment in Historical Sluttery at Slutist. More than just extravagant and beautiful, Nazimova was an accomplished talent who helped elevate other notable women. Oh, and he probably slept with both of Rudolph Valentino’s wives, if you want to get into the salacious stuff (which we all know you do). Read the article here: Alla Nazimova, Silver Screen Sappho.
I continue my exploration of heavy metal comics in my Stygian Imagery column at Nine Circles. This month, I highly recommend that readers check out Black Metalwritten by Rick Spears and Chuck BB. Don’t be a knucklehead like me and avoid it just because it’s about teens–it’s really great. Read my full review, in which I quote Venom lyrics to try to make some kind of point, somehow: Stygian Imagery: Black Metal by Rick Spears and Chuck BB.
2016 has certainly started with a bang, and February holds some really exciting developments that I’m looking forward to sharing. For those of you looking for a handy run-down of what I’ve been up to, you’re in luck!
January’s installment of Great Moments in Historical Sluttery, my monthly column at Slutist, is probably one of my favorites so far. Roman Empress Messalina is a fascinating figure whose scandalous reputation continues to titillate audiences looking for tales of sexy intrigue. Short of the whole “getting executed for treason” thing, it’s pretty amazing to think that one’s insatiable sexual appetites would continue to be a topic of conversation two thousand years after one’s death. May we all be lucky enough to be the namesake of a German strip club. Read the article here.
On a completely different but also-controversial note, I reviewed Feral House’s spicy new release, The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement: UK & USA 1979-1993 for Heathen Harvest. SPOILER: Many people are punched; little is ultimately accomplished. This was a challenging read from a very different perspective than the majority of writing on the subject, though its 600-plus-page run length makes it a book geared towards the VERY curious. Of all of the exhaustive details, I think my favorite anecdote was the fact that Ian Stewart of Skrewdriver was used as a bogeyman to convince his friends’ kids to behave themselves.
Lastly, but absolutely not leastly, my Art Coven sisters Becky Munich and S. Elizabeth brought together amazing artists and authors for their just-released Occult Activity Book and invited me to participate. If you’ve ever wanted Elizabeth Bathory paper dolls and Suspiria color-in pages, then boy howdy it is your lucky day! I’ve got my filthy hands on a copy of this and it is a creepy, cheeky good time. Purchase your copy here!
It’s true, friends–gone are the days when I’m blogging about every single thing I’ve watched. Your devastation resonates directly into my black, patent-leather heart, but don’t despair. My graphomania is now dispersed across the web on various *other* platforms.
At Heathen Harvest, I had an opportunity to chat with musician and composer Miro Snejdr, probably best known for his work with Death in June. Miro is one of the most organically gifted individuals I’ve spoken with, and the sort of person who thinks that it’s “boring” to be able to sit at a piano and create music as if touched by the hand of a higher power. The Magic Hand of Chance: An Interview with Miro Snejdr
Also at Heathen Harvest, I reviewed Horizontal Collaboration, the latest book by my favorite historian, the amazing Mel Gordon. His book on Weimar Berlin, Voluptuous Panic, has had a tremendous impact on my life, and Horizontal Collaboration is a worthy successor. Horizontal Collaboration: The Erotic World of Paris, 1920-1946
In addition to publishing two very different titles over the past month via my micro-publishing imprint Heretical Sexts, I’ve also been blogging for two excellent websites that have been kind enough to say “yes” when I pitch them ideas like “GIFs about silent movies” or “essays about female historical figures with a sexy twist.”
Over at Slutist, you can read my latest installment of Great Moments in Historical Sluttery features Mary Shelley. For those of you who think of Mary Shelley only in terms of being the author of “Frankenstein” (no mean feat, mind you), prepare your brains to learn that she was also a prolific author and free thinker who was responsible for elevating her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, to the status of literary royalty after his untimely death. There’s also some stuff in there about graveside sex, because lurid historical details delight me to no end.
I’ve also started writing for Dirge Magazine, where I’ll be contributing a couple of posts a month on signature “lurid, weird, and fantastique” topics. Dirge is a great resource for articles on what I like to think of as Pan-Spooky-ist topics: movies, music, art, writing, and general creepy-sexiness.
I also made a list of seven songs inspired by dark classics of literature and graciously provided links to where folks can read these wonderful books, because I am only capable of loving old, anachronistic things. A lot of people read that article, which is pretty cool. I hope they all listened to Toto Coelo’s “Dracula’s Tango” all the way through (I still think that song is woefully under-appreciated). Then again, if they just played The Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” over and over again, I am comfortable with that outcome as well.
I’m thrilled to announce that my first hand-made, limited edition book Die Mensur will be premiering this weekend at my table at the St. Vitus Halloween Flea Market in Brooklyn on October 25 from 1pm to 5pm. I’ve finally been able to get my arms around the topic of the Mensur by collaborating with Gilles de Rais of Porta Nigra, and the product is this 32-page, illustrated book.
Mensur, the ritualized fencing technique still practiced by German fraternities, is veiled in mystery and controversy. This hyper-stylized tradition that’s part character building, part blood rite, and part male bonding is practically unchanged in over a century. Mensur a topic that has fascinated me for a number of years now, bobbing up to the surface of my consciousness from time to time and offering a morsel of information from a book, movie, or article. Through Gilles, I was able to interview two current members of a fencing fraternity in Cologne, and their generosity and candor finally filled in many of the missing pieces in my understanding of the Mensur.
Included in the book is a brief history of fencing fraternities, a discussion of the rules of the Mensur, an overview of equipment, and full-length interviews with fraternity brothers. There are eight full-page illustrations plus interstitials throughout (the result of essentially gluing myself to my drawing board for multiple weekends in a row–I have extremely patient and understanding friends).
I’ve gone out of my way to give the book a traditional feel, hand-trimming and hand-binding each copy. Title lettering was drawn by The joey Zone, who created beautifully lettered artwork for the recent NecronomiCon H.P. Lovecraft convention this past summer. The covers have been screen printed in metallic gold on black textured paper by a small-run, local artist and interior pages are printed on 32 lb. soft white Arturo paper imported from Italy. Translucent chevron-printed endpapers complete the vintage feel. Books are sewn by hand using black waxed bookbinding thread and spines are covered in black and gold handmade paper. I’m more than a bit of a fetishist when it comes to my materials selection and it’s entirely possible I went overboard here, but people of Taste and Distinction will appreciate the superior hand-feel on these books.
The edition is limited to 45 copies, and retail will be $15. Copies remaining after Sunday will be available for sale in the Heretical Sexts storefront.
Also: I’ll have a limited number of vinyls of Porta Nigra’s demo plus their debut album Fin de Siècle on CD at my table at St. Vitus. I recommend that anyone whose interests cross over between late 19th Century history and literature and sophisticated, extreme heavy metal swing by my table and grab some excellent listening accompaniment.
I’m delighted to let you guys know that the second volume of My Dream Date with a Villain is now available from my zine imprint, Heretical Sexts. Copies are available for purchase in the shop now. I’ve also added a bundle deal that gets you ALL four zines I’ve put out plus a pack of buttons for your bag/battle jacket/hoodie/what-have-you.
There are some prrrettty seriously talented folks who agreed to play along with the self-insert fan fiction theme, including:
–Heather Drain‘s date with Radu Vladislav from the Subspecies movies
–Dana Glover bringing more Mordor romance to the HS world with her comic about life with Sauron
-Newly-minted Heretical Sexts staffer Jack Shear “Getting Head from Red Skull” (that title, guys)
-My blood-drenched and also very sapphic affair with Carmilla Karnstein
…Plus so very much more, including a Russian demon, the worst Beach Boy ever, and a New Wave James Bond villain.
There are an almost infinite number of enticements I could use to convince you to watch Henrik Galeen’s 1928 screen adaptation of Hanns Heinz Ewers’ decadent occult romance novel “Alraune,” but for the purposes of brevity and impact, I’ve selected the five GIFs below to plead my case. While the film departs from the source material in several particulars, it retains much of the cruelly humorous eroticism while adding in a tension-filled train ride and an extended circus interlude. Those are both terrifically Weimar Era touches to which I simply cannot object.
Backing up a few paces: the novel “Alraune” tells the story of a woman created by a scientist through artificially inseminating a prostitute with the seed of a hanged convict (deftly harvested during the criminal’s death throes) that the resulting child might take on the magical characteristics of the mandrake (alraune) root. This daughter brings both incredible luck and tragic misfortune to every person who attempts to get close to her, from bewitched fellow students in her convent school though besotted men who bend to her whims.
The English cut of the film adaptation glosses over Alraune’s conception, though for Those In The Know it’s all pretty much there, opening as it does on a fantastically moody gallows with lurking figures beneath. What the film does maintain, though, is the novel’s overarching spirit and (spoiler alert for an almost-100-year-old movie based on an over-100-year-old book) while the ending is significantly more upbeat, there’s something deliciously subversive about transforming a tale of a born-and-bred femme fatale into a redemption arc.
With that, I’ll proceed onto the facts of the case.
FIRSTLY: “Alraune” features an actual “train going into a tunnel” cut to indicate two characters having sex. That’s fucking terrific.
SECONDLY: Have you ever wanted to see Brigitte Helm, Maria from “Metropolis,” performing an adorable calisthenics routine? Then I admire the specificity of your tastes and will inform you that this is your film, friend.
THIRDLY: There is a beer-drinking bear.
FOURTHLY: I direct you to GIF Left, in which there is a woman wearing a monocle. The monocle was frequently donned by cosmopolitan German women who wished to indicate their lesbian identity, in a supreme gesture of elegant sartorial BAMF-ery.
FIFTHLY (and perhaps most importantly): “Alraune” features some of the best exchanges of Significant Looks ever captured on film. The smoking! The gazes! The cheekbones! It’s more than the heart can stand.
And with that, I leave you to watch “Alraune” (aka “A Daughter of Destiny”):